In the upper room, Jesus gave the apostles a new commandment, to love each other. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35 ESV).
This new commandment is echoed throughout the letters written by the apostles and writers. John expands on it in his first letter, telling us what love is and what love is not.
In the middle of a lengthy discussion about the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, Paul talks about the need for love (1 Corinthians 13). You can speak in all the languages known by men (or even angels), have God’s word revealed so that you understand and know everything, and even live a sacrificial life to the point of giving your physical life, yet if love isn’t present then these things count as nothing. They are worthless! Love is that important!
But what does this love look like? This love is seen in our lives, in how we live everyday and especially in how we treat each other. Notice how Paul described the love we are to have as Christians.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).
No wonder Jesus could say that if those around us saw us living this way, they would know that we are his disciples! But how many Christians do you really see that are like this? My experience is that there are very few.
When there are problems in congregations, it almost always goes back to a lack of love. Christians frequently aren’t patient, especially with each other. How many times have we seen problems because individuals insisted on something having to be done their way? Do we know Christians who are irritable or resentful? How many times have we been happy when someone failed or did something wrong? Do we always rejoice with the truth?
The last four qualities that Paul lists probably hits us all. Do we really bear all things? Or do we get angry when someone does something different? Do we really believe all things? Or do we treat what Christians tell us with suspicion? Do we really hope all things? Or do we think nothing good will ever happen and are against anything someone suggests? Do we really endure all things? Or when things don’t go our way we end up becoming angry, irritable, and resentful?
The type of love Paul described that we are to have never ends. And this is the love we are to have for each other as Christians.
Do we really want peace and harmony in the family of Christians where we are? Then we need to learn what love, true love, is all about. It isn’t about people being nice to us. It is about how we treat those around us. It is about being like Jesus. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”
Readings for next week:
18 September – 1 Corinthians 12-13
19 September – 1 Corinthians 14
20 September – 1 Corinthians 15:1-28
21 September – 1 Corinthians 15:29-58
22 September – 1 Corinthians 16